Negative reports about immigrants in the mass media associate with prejudice

Italian majority has scarce direct contact with immigrants. Consequently, the primary source of information about immigrants is the mass media. Unfortunately, the information about immigrants transmitted through TV news and newspaper is twice as often negative as positive. This way, TV news and newspaper represent an exception to different forms of intergroup contact that are usually more positive than negative. People have more often positive than negative direct experiences with immigrants and they mostly know of their friends’ positive interactions with immigrants.

Following TV news and newspaper reports about immigrants related to higher anxiety and lower empathy and trust felt towards immigrants. Higher anxiety, lower empathy and trust towards immigrants in turn associated with higher prejudice against immigrants in Italy. On the contrary, viewing films and TV series about immigrants was related to reduced prejudice against immigrants through increased trust toward immigrants. The research by Emilio P. Visintin and colleagues shows that it is important to distinguish what media content people are exposed to as they can have quite distinct effects on majority’s prejudice against and emotions felt towards immigrants. Their findings confirm the substantial role of media in shaping people’s attitudes and call for responsible journalism that can potentially contribute to more accepting societies.

Visintin, E. P., Voci, A., Pagotto, L., & Hewstone, M. (2017). Direct, extended, and mass-mediated contact with immigrants in Italy: Their associations with emotions, prejudice, and humanity perceptions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 2017, 47, 175–194.